It’s been a while since I penned a column, but we recently unveiled a new B.A.S.S. slogan or mantra: Big Bass. Big Stage. Big Dreams.
And that got me thinking about last year’s Junior Bassmaster Championship.
It’s early in the morning and it’s quiet.
Hank Weldon, the tournament director for the Bassmaster College, High School and Junior Series, turns on the pre-tournament music, softly at first, slowly getting louder as it nears launch time.
Moms are wishing young anglers good luck and telling them to be careful, offering hugs. Dads are giving some last-minute advice, high fives and proudly talking about their son or daughter to anyone who will listen.
The anglers are confident; some may be nervous. They can’t wait for the tournament to start. They have fished all year for this chance. This is their Classic, their chance at a Big Bass, a Big Stage and their Big Dream.
Their tackle is ready. They have a game plan. They know where they’ll start and which lures they’ll throw. They have dreamed of this tournament for weeks, months. They dream of being the next big name in fishing. Every angler (young and old) has a favorite angler.
The volume of the music comes down for an invocation and then the National Anthem. Silence was everywhere, only a slight breeze moving Old Glory.
I couldn’t help but wonder where these youngsters would end up, where their road would take them. Perhaps some would be fishing for a living. Others might be doctors, teachers, blue-collar workers, etc. Perhaps some would be defending our freedom.
I was just wondering.
As takeoff begins, the boat numbers and names are called — the quiet music turns loud and excitement is everywhere. As boats were leaving, parents were so proud. Maybe a few tears were shed, maybe a prayer was said.
They were dreaming that their kids were going to catch a Big Bass — maybe even win the tournament but mostly just hoping they have a great day and catch at least one, a big one, so they could walk across that Big Stage and get their picture taken.
As the anglers are going to their first spot, they are going over their game plan one last time. They can’t wait to make that first cast. They can’t wait to get that first strike. They can’t wait to catch that first fish. Can’t this boat go any faster?
The anglers have fished hard all day, making hundreds, maybe even thousands of casts. They made decisions, some good, some not so good. Some caught fish, some have not. Some are happy, some are not so happy.
Some are still dreaming Big Dreams.
Some are thinking “What if?” There will always be What-ifs…
I guess you could say that What-ifs are like Big Dreams.
As I write this column, it hits me that there is not much difference, if any, between those Junior Bassmasters and any of the thousands of other anglers that fish in High School, B.A.S.S. Nation, Bassmaster Opens or even the ones that make that ultimate goal of competing in the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.
They are all, even the pros, going through the same emotions, the same thoughts before and during the tournament and the same jubilation or disappointment or what-if’s after.
Those feelings are what fuels the passion and the dreams and the reason I love this great sport.
For those of you that love this sport like I do, as we evolve and get older and dream about walking across that state B.A.S.S. Nation stage or the national B.A.S.S. Nation stage or the High School, College or Bassmaster Opens stage or even the Biggest Stage of them all at the Classic, we all have Big Dreams of that walk, with Big Bass in our bag.
All along the way, starting way back when you were a kid, you had that dream.
Big Bass. Big Stage. Big Dreams.
And with each step along the way you take, my Big Dream for you is that, as you grow in this great B.A.S.S. Family, the Bass get Bigger, the Stage gets Bigger and the Dreams get Bigger!